Director James Wan is no horror newbie. Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring… he knows horror and how to do it well. Released in 2010, Insidious tells the story of the Lambert family. After their son Dalton slips into an unexplainable coma, Renai and Josh struggle to maintain an everyday family life in a house that appears to be haunted. When Renai reaches her limit of being terrorized by ghosts in not one but two homes, she reaches out for help. Through a series of events, it’s discovered that Dalton can leave his body at night and travel; his spirit now resides in a place called The Further, where evil spirits live.
The premise of this film is solid, and while it stretches the imagination a bit, I enjoyed it mainly because it felt fresh. Supernatural stories are tricky because the viewer feels as if nothing is real and they have nothing to grasp. But when done well, they can be a fun and creative adventure. Insidious is compelling and spooky, full of exciting twists, turns, and gotcha moments. The spirits in The Further are terrifying, and that entire sequence was pretty unforgettable. And while the movie’s ending sets it up for the inevitable sequel, it’s also unexpected and a solid final gotcha moment.
What anchors Insidious, though, aren’t the scares or the incredible story; it’s the acting. The entire cast is excellent, but Rose Byrne as Renai is unbelievable. She plays the role of a stressed, desperate mother to perfection. You can feel her hopelessness jump off the screen, making the viewer more invested. You feel exactly how she feels, which is a unique and rare quality for a horror film to have. Many horror movies feature desperate characters trying to escape horrible situations, but let’s face it — only real actors know how to make this feeling so palpable it hurts to watch (in a good way.) Byrne is incredible at achieving this, and it carried the film for me.
Insidious is a refreshing take on the supernatural division of horror. Full of jumpy moments and creepy images, the well-written story and fantastic acting make this film a real treat. You’ll think the premise is a little looney, but in the best way. Stick with it and follow it through to the end — you won’t be sorry.
If you liked Insidious, you might also like Saw, Final Destination 3, and Sinister.